Salary and Career Information for an Assistant Curator

Discover what education and preparation will open the door for a career as an assistant curator. Get a quick overall view of the field, as well as details about degree programs, job duties and skills to find out if this is the career for you.

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Assistant curators usually work for organizations such as museums, galleries, historical sites, or educational institutions, so the salary ranges vary. They help the curatorial department when it comes to research, acquisitions, planning exhibits and events, storage, and communicating with the public and other institutions.

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Essential Information

Assistant curators typically work for larger museums or historical sites and specialize in one area of the facility, such as art, an area of science, cultural anthropology or history. An advanced degree such as a master's or doctorate opens the door to the greatest opportunities for an assistant curator. Salaries vary widely depending on education, experience, and the employer. The number of opportunities is expected to increase in the future.

Required Education Master's degree; doctoral degree required for some positions
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 8% for all curators*
Median Salary (2016) $40,974**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

Job Duties

Assistant curators often design the museum exhibits that are open to the public. They may travel to various areas to authenticate a work of art and make recommendations about its acquisition. They also oversee storage protocols, direct appropriate handling of artifacts or authorize the loan of a specific collection to another facility.

Assistant curators may also spend significant time in meetings with board members, writing grant proposals or organizing research projects within their department. Some assistant curator positions are largely research based. In this case, their primary job is conducting research for the museum or facility. Assistant curators often promote the museum through community outreach programs, such as visits to classrooms. They also spend time on fundraising.

Salary Information

Salary statistics are available; however, there isn't a lot of data for assistant positions. According to PayScale.com, most assistant curators made between $24,753 - $56,332 as of 2016; the national median salary was reported at $40,974.

The median annual salary for curators in 2015 was $51,520, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Top earners brought in $91,710 or more, and the lowest ten percent earned $28,440.

Salary relates to education, experience and the size or affluence of the historical site or museum. According to the BLS, curators working for the federal executive government earned more than those working for museums, historical sites and other similar institutions. Curators working in large metropolitan areas tended to earn more than those working in smaller non-metropolitan areas.

Employment Outlook

While demand for curators is expected to grow by 8% from 2014 to 2024, the BLS expects the number of qualified candidates to outnumber available positions. They note that many graduates will likely spend the early days of their career as part-time workers or even unpaid interns and volunteers. Graduates who are willing to relocate to another country and are fluent in more than one language will likely find the most opportunities for employment.

Education Requirements

Museums usually hire assistant curators with a master's degree in art, history, science or archeology. Some facilities prefer a more general graduate degree in museum studies. Curators might increase their job options by earning one graduate degree in their area of interest, such as anthropology, and a second graduate degree in museum studies. A doctoral degree provides the most marketability for candidates interested in natural history or science. Some facilities may even require a doctoral degree.

Many museums, especially smaller ones, prefer curators with additional education or experience in public relations, fundraising and marketing strategies. Because many facilities require hands-on experience along with academic accomplishment, students often work in various volunteer positions offered by museums during their college years, such as tour guides.

Advancement

Assistant curators with a master's degree can go on to complete a doctoral program, which will offer more employment prospects. Curators working in smaller facilities can pursue positions in larger museums or consider self-employment, working as a consultant to several facilities. Assistant curators may also advance through the ranks to museum director. Larger museums and educational facilities usually require curators to conduct research projects (and publish their findings) to qualify for advancement.

Assistant curators are expected to have a relatively high level of education and experience, considering the pay and number of available jobs. This field is expected to grow at an average rate through 2024. Salary varies widely depending on the institution and job role.

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